Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XIV
SIR JAMES STEPHEN AND SIR HENRY TAYLOR (1849)

WHEN Duffy wanted details of what was amiss, he was told what he could not deny,--"Not one fence in 500 will turn the cattle. These hedges are mostly gorse and not attended to." The first town they reached was Kilmacthomas,1 where Duffy was recognised with general enthusiasm, even shared by the policeman. "I would like to give a cheer for that gent," the driver whispered to Carlyle, who answered,--"Don't, it will do him no good." Next they came to Dungarvan and then to Cappoquin, where Duffy stayed at the hotel, while Carlyle took a car to Dromana, the house of Lord Stuart. Duffy was to go on Saturday direct to Cork, where he had much business, and Carlyle was to arrive there on the Monday.

It seems to have been on this Friday's journey that Duffy enquired about Sir James Stephen,2 whose essays on Hildebrand and other subjects he had much admired.

"He is a man of good brains," said Carlyle. "He was placed early in the Colonial Office, and had got trained in official life till he obtained a complete command of its formulas and agencies; and it was found, whoever was Colonial Minister, Stephen was the real governor of the colonies. He bowed to every suggestion of the Minister, and was as smooth as silk, but somehow the thing he did not like was found never to be done at all. Charles Buller named him Mr. Mother-country.

"His biographies of saints was a dilettante kind of task, which he took up on account of the quantity of eloquent writing that could be got out of it, not from any love of the subject. He had no notion of living a life in any way resembling the lives of these men. He could talk about them, and inspect their doings with curious eyes, but doing like

____________________
1
Rominiscences of My Irish Journey, by T. Carlyle, pp. 94-7.
2
Conversations with Carlyle, by Sir C. Gavan Duffy, pp. 78-82.

-130-

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